Litigators in Hong Kong are getting to grips with the shake up of its High Court Rules as a result of the recent Civil Justice Reform initiative ("CJR"). The changes came into force in Hong Kong on 2 April 2009.

The CJR introduces a number of new rules to the existing High Court Rules (equivalent to the Civil Procedure Rules in England and Wales), aimed at making litigation more fair, efficient and cost effective and are comparable to the "Woolf Reforms" in England and Wales in 1999. It is hoped that the CJR will achieve this aim by granting the Courts a greater degree of control over a case, both in terms of the issues that are being litigated and the time that is allowed for parties to put their case and bring it to trial.

Of particular interest to lawyers in all jurisdictions is the Mediation Practice Direction which forms part of the CJR but which will not come into force until 1 January 2010, pursuant to which the Courts have been provided with new powers to promote mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution. Pursuant to the Mediation Practice Direction, the Courts in Hong Kong will be able to impose an adverse costs order on any party which unreasonably fails to engage in the mediation process. This is clearly an issue of which any company or individual involved in legal action in Hong Kong will want to be aware of at an early stage.